PROVIDENCE, RI- Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced that Rhode Island has been awarded an $8 million, 24-month grant to implement Central Providence Opportunities – a place-based initiative to increase social and economic mobility for residents of the 02908 and 02909 zip codes, and then scale these strategies statewide. The pilot initiative, set to commence next month, brings together the Governor's office, state agencies, the Rhode Island Foundation, and ONE Neighborhood Builders.
"This initiative is a critical step in building a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable Rhode Island," said Governor Raimondo. "The next two years will demonstrate that investments in our communities and our people yield dividends, creating a model that can be scaled up and implemented across the state."
The pandemic has further exacerbated and laid bare the degree to which a resident's zip code determines economic, health, and education outcomes. The Central Providence area, including the Olneyville, Hartford, Manton, Silver Lake, Valley, Federal Hill, Smith Hill, Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, has been one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19 in Rhode Island. This initiative is central to the Governor's statewide strategy to build a robust and equitable recovery from the COVID crisis by investing in housing and infrastructure, childcare, pre-K and education, workforce development and small businesses. The Governor's proposed FY21 bond package includes $65 million for housing and community development, and $15 million for early learning centers. More than $186 million in Coronavirus Relief funds have been allocated to business supports and the Governor's Back to Work program for unemployed Rhode Islanders.
"Access to affordable housing, economic opportunity, health care and a high-quality education should not be dependent on the neighborhood you live in," said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. "My Administration has worked tirelessly to make sure that all residents can achieve a high quality of life by investing in these essential building blocks. Today, I am proud to join Governor Raimondo, Blue Meridian, One Neighborhood Builders and other partners that have made Central Providence Opportunities possible, bringing additional resources to invest in the long-term resiliency of communities that have been hardest hit by the impacts of COVID-19."
"As the state's community foundation we are excited to steward this investment, and to ensure its positive impact on the residents of Central Providence," said Neil D. Steinberg, President & CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. "This work has the potential to create a blueprint to equitably scale statewide investments of the same kind, with a focus on increasing economic security and opportunity for Rhode Islanders."
The Central Providence Opportunities will be led by ONE Neighborhood Builders. As the leader of this initiative as well as the Central Providence Health Equity Zone, ONE Neighborhood Builders will convene community partners and residents and ensure the focus remains on addressing health disparities through systems change and policy reform. The grant will fund strategies to increase economic security and opportunity for residents of Central Providence, and across the state. Included is a $1 million investment in Rhode Island's Health Equity Zones, which will provide infrastructure to implement lessons learned statewide. The remaining funds will be invested in organizational capacity building, project oversight and evaluation, and direct investments in:
-Growing and sustaining community capacity; -Increasing affordable housing; -Improving leading indicators leading to 3rd grade reading; -Advancing workforce and business development outcomes - with a focus on minority-owned businesses.
Jennifer Hawkins, President & Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, said, "Through many years of working side by side, a genuine spirit of collaboration and shared vision has been cultivated among residents and community partners. COVID-19 has tested our resilience and strengthened our commitment to enduring and equitable improvements. I could not be more optimistic about the initiative's potential."
Blue Meridian Partners has made a two-year investment in the Central Providence Opportunities initiative. The investment will be managed by the Rhode Island Foundation, and leveraged by tapping into new and existing state-level resources. The Foundation will serve as the fiscal sponsor, supporting the initiative anchored by ONE Neighborhood Builders, the Governor's office and state agencies, and working in partnership with both to invest the funds within the identified priority areas. The Foundation will also provide technical assistance aimed at building toward a plan to scale impact statewide.
Tomeka Wigginton, Managing Director at Blue Meridian Partners, said, "Blue Meridian Partners understands that a person's zip code often predicts their life trajectory, and that a strong place-based partnership is critical to develop and implement local strategies for improving economic conditions and opportunities in underserved communities. That is why we are excited to support the Central Providence Opportunities Initiative, in partnership with ONE Neighborhood Builders, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Governor's office. We look forward to supporting their vision and partnering with these great leaders."